Lecture by Randolph Lewis, Professor at The University of Texas at Austin and Accomplished Author
Not too long ago, many Americans assumed that surveillance was something for criminals and spies to worry about, not ordinary people. But it’s fast becoming something that everyone has to confront in their daily life. After all, how do make sense of endless security cameras, TSA scanners, drones in our skies and Big Data analytics? What does it mean when Silicon Valley executives announce that “privacy is dead”? How should we feel about the fact that powerful surveillance technologies probably know more about our intimate lives than our friends and family?
While law professors, philosophers, and other scholars have tried to answer these important questions, some of the most interesting responses have come from contemporary visual artists. Banksy and many lesser known street artists have mocked the authoritarian nature of CCTV cameras with brilliant populist commentary. Artist and geographer Trevor Paglen has been searching for the so-called “Blank Spots on the Map” that reveal what governments hide from their citizens, even as it increases its scrutiny of our private lives. And photographers such as Arne Svenson have taken surreptitious images of people sleeping in high rise apartments without their knowledge. Although it’s not illegal to look into windows in New York City, what about when you’re making a photograph that will be widely viewed in galleries and online? What are the ethics of making art in the age of ubiquitous surveillance? This lecture will explore such questions from a broad, humanistic perspective.